An In-Depth Guide to Understanding and Using WordPress Tags

Tags give WordPress users immense power to categorize site content at a granular level. Yet despite their capabilities, tags remain misunderstood and underutilized by many site owners unfamiliar with taxonomy best practices.

In this extensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about WordPress tags and how to use them effectively, from key definitions to display options and expert recommendations.

Current WordPress Tag Usage and Statistics

Before we dive into specifics on WordPress tags, let’s ground the conversation with the latest data and surveys on how sites currently use tags across the web:

WordPress Powers Over 43% of All Websites

As of January 2023, WordPress remains the world’s most popular content management system. According to W3Techs, over 43% of all websites now run on WordPress. This equates to billions of web pages powered by WordPress, all with the ability to utilize tags.

Of All Websites, Just 37% Actively Use Tags

However, recent surveys indicate just 37% of all websites actively implement keyword tags in their content. This means the majority who could benefit from proper tagging don’t currently utilize them at all.

Tag Usage Varies by Industry


  • Academic sites use content tags 51% more than average
  • Ecommerce product pages have 32% fewer keyword tags
  • Auto blogs tag make/model 46% more than other niches

So tag usage differs significantly based on site type and niche.

Proper Tagging Can Boost Organic Traffic by 29%

What’s the incentive for actively tagging WordPress site content? According to JumpFactor’s 2022 study, pages with extensive keyword tagging through tags and categories increased organic search traffic by an average of 29% year-over-year.

In other words, tagging pays dividends in the form of increased visitors and revenue.

Defining the Differences: Categories vs. Tags

We started explaining the contrast between categories and tags. But given common misconceptions getting them mixed up, let’s explore their differences further.

WordPress Categories:

  • Mandatory taxonomy
  • Used to organize content into BROAD groupings
  • Create main site navigation structure
  • Example: News, Products, About Us

WordPress Tags:

  • Optional taxonomy
  • Used for organizing content into SPECIFIC topics
  • Enhance sub-navigation of categories
  • Example: Yankees, Nike, Contact Form

Here‘s a helpful visual comparison:

Categories Tags
Breadth Broad groupings Narrow topics
Usage Main site structure Secondary enhancements
Quantity Limited number Unrestricted amount

To demonstrate this distinction further, here are additional examples from other website verticals:


Categories: Lifestyle, Travel, Food, DIY

Tags: Miami, pasta, social media


Categories: Apparel, Electronics, Furniture

Tags: t-shirts, Samsung, desk chair


Categories: News & Reviews, Makes & Models, How-To

Tags: Tesla Model 3, oil change, dealerships

So categories classify HIGH-LEVEL while tags drill-down into the details.

Benefits of a Combined Taxonomy Approach

When used together properly, categories and tags offer complementary benefits:

Categories = Main Topics: Group all posts into broad themes that define your website’s purpose using categories anyone can understand.

Tags = Supporting Keywords: Sprinkle in niche keyword tags search engines connect directly to page content about specific sub-topics.

Result: Categories create site structure. Tags enhance page rankings and visibility.

Downsides of Just Using One or the Other

Conversely, relying solely on categories or only tagging leaves gaping holes:

Categories Only: Limits search engine understanding of granular page topics. Higher-intent visitors may miss niche content.

Tags Only: Leads to disorganized, chaotic site navigation as tags number into the thousands.

In short, categories provide order while tags provide details. You need both for taxonomy success.

How to Add WordPress Tags

Let’s move on to specifics on creating WordPress tags via:

  • The post editor sidebar
  • Manual entry on the back-end
  • Converting categories into tags

In the Post Editor Sidebar

The easiest and most common way bloggers add WordPress tags is directly inside the post editor sidebar.

When you’re writing a new post, glance at the right-side “Tags” module. Type in relevant niche tags into the text field separated by commas. Press Enter after each.

Your tags instantly appear in a clickable box below. You can also click the “x” here to remove any tags.

This attaches defined tags to that individual post. You’ll find it’s the fastest way to tag on-the-fly.

From the Posts > Tags Backend Screen

The second option is adding general WordPress tags site-wide without attaching them to posts just yet.

Navigate to Posts > Tags in your admin dashboard. Find the “Add New Tag” section.

Fill in key tag details:

  • Name – The tag name properly capitalized
  • Slug – URL-friendly all-lowercase version
  • Description – Optional explanatory summary

Click “Add New Tag” when done. Define as many potential tags as you want this way. Later, assign them to applicable posts via the first method above.

So if you know you want tags like locations or product brands, add them globally here before writing posts.

Converting Categories Into Tags

Sometimes you realization categories should’ve been general tags all along (or vice versa).

Rather than manually recreating them, WordPress lets you quickly convert between categories and tags.

Under Posts > Categories find the Categories and Tags Converter. Select categories to change into tags (or the opposite). Check preferences for reassigning posts under the new taxonomy and hit “Convert”.

WordPress swaps categories for tags site-wide automatically. Use whenever you need taxonomy corrections in bulk.

How to Display WordPress Tags on Your Website

Visitors can only click and engage with WordPress tags if you display them prominently on your live site. Theme options for showcasing tags include:

  • Tag clouds
  • Below blog posts
  • In navigation menus

Let’s explore examples of each prominent tag placement in WordPress:

In a Tag Cloud Widget

The most popular way to display multiple WordPress tags is via a tag cloud widget. This visually showcases your most frequently used tags in scrolling boxes.

Tag cloud widgets automatically come with many themes. Add one to a sidebar or footer widget area.

Access widget settings to tailor display preferences:

For example, limit the number of tags to avoid stretching layouts.

Here‘s an example of a tag cloud implemented in the sidebar:

This provides users immediate access to niche topics that might not be in main site navigation.

Below Blog Posts

Many themes also append associated WordPress tags right within post single pages:

Again, tags down here become clickable links to their respective archive pages.

Check existing posts. If your active theme doesn’t do this, you’ll need developer help editing PHP files like single.php to add that functionality.

In Navigation Menus

Lastly, manually link WordPress tags in main site menus by adding their archive URLs as custom nav items.

For example, your “Blogging” tag would get a menu item linking to:

Do this to spotlight niche tags beyond what categories show in main nav. But use sparingly to avoid clutter.

Best Practices for WordPress Tags

Now that we’ve covered WordPress tag creation, association and display, let’s switch gears to taxonomy best practices regarding SEO, content types beyond posts and more:

Keep Tags and Categories Separate

First, maintain clear distinction between categories and tags in WordPress. Never use the same term for both (e.g. don’t create a “News” tag if “News” is already a main site category).

Duplicate verbiage across taxonomy types muddles functionality and intent from an SEO standpoint.

Consider Noindexing Tag Archive Pages

Untold numbers of tags can create tons of very similar tag archive pages on your site. To prevent duplicate content issues and crawl budget waste, noindex unnecessary tag archives.

This tells search engines not to index near-identical tag pages. Use SEO plugins like Yoast to toggle noindex settings.

Set Custom Tag Archive Limits

Speaking of archive pages, the default paginated display of 10 posts per page remains unchanged for tag results.

For niche tags unlikely to ever amass 10+ posts, override the sitewide default to prevent empty filler pages:

Set paginated limits fitting your expected usage per tag. No need for multi-page archives on obscure tags.

Additional WordPress Tag Optimization Tips

Also remember to:

  • Only assign relevant tags to each post (max 5)
  • Use tag names consistently across all posts
  • Include tags in social share meta descriptions
  • Long-tail multi-word tags can outperform short tags

Intermediate Tag Usage in WordPress

Up your tag game even further with these intermediate tactics:

How to Bulk Add, Edit or Delete Tags

Tweaking tags one post at a time is tedious. Instead, manage tags in bulk via CSV imports:

  1. Export posts into a CSV file
  2. Mass add/edit tags in the downloaded Excel sheet
  3. Import the CSV to update posts in bulk

Use this whenever you need large tag changes across hundreds of WordPress posts simultaneously.

Tag All Post Types – Not Just Blog Posts

We’ve focused exclusively on tagging standard blog posts. But did you know tags work across all built-in and custom post types in WordPress?

That means you can also tag:

  • Pages
  • Products
  • Videos
  • Custom Content Types

Explore settings for alternate post types to activate tag boxes while editing those items.

This amplifies the content-organizing power of tags site-wide.

Map Tags to Editorial Calendars

As a best practice, plot blog tags aligned to future posting schedules and categories.

For example:

Sync your tags plan ahead of creating posts. Include relevant hashtag-style tags in outlines to scale organization.

Conclusion & Next Steps

We’ve only scratched the surface of the customization, optimization and advanced usage tactics possible with WordPress tags.

Hopefully this guide provided an authoritative crash course on:

  • Getting clear on category vs. tag differences
  • The importance of combined taxonomy
  • How to add tags three ways
  • Displaying tags prominently
  • Following best practices

As next steps, consider:

  • Auditing your current tagging usage
  • Brainstorming additional niche tags
  • Trying a tag cloud widget
  • Converting stagnant categories into active tags

With tags powering enhanced website taxonomy, increased organic visibility and clickable sub-navigation, start tapping into this built-in WordPress feature sooner than later.

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